Updated: May 16, 2016
Remember Agent Triple X from wossname James Bond movie with Roger Moore? Well, this is exactly like that, except nothing in common. James Bond, pronounced Hames in Spanish, brings glamor, and Ubuntu brings woe, at least based on what I was able to discern in my less than successful Xenial review a few days ago.
Oh, I love regressions. Love them. It's so yummy i'm lovin' it, lowercase style. But then, there's no really knowing how good any one particular flavor will be. Xubuntu did a spectacular job last year, so it might do that again. Let's check.
No problem booting on my Lenovo G50, with all its associated scary technology. The desktop is a little bland, but perfectly workable and recognizable as Xubuntu. More snazz would not be amiss, or not showing removable device icons on the desktop. 'Tis ugly.
As you can imagine, good and bad. We have seen the Realtek bug resurface, so do not be surprised. I wasn't, and the network died twice during live testing. Unlike 14.04, you can actually fix this without rebooting, which is the only reason why I'm still writing and this distro isn't featuring a nice juicy zero score. But I do have to thank the wider community of developers, Linux, Realtek and alike, for ruining my collective experience. May your children all grow up using touch-based Windows devices. Actually, that's not a curse. Windows would work better than this regressionfest stupidity.
Yes, following some nonsense security vulnerability scare, all Linux distros now disallow guest access to remote shares for some reason, resulting in incessant prompts for password.s Not only is this annoying, it's also broken. First, guest shares should require no authentication. You can stuff your security paranoia where it doth not shine. I don't care about Samba vulnerabilities affecting servers, no matter how sexy their name might be. Leave me alone, segway warriors.
Second, you can't really do this once and forget, because even if you do tell the system to remember the password, it will ask the next time you reboot, because Samba is now utterly broken. Another package joins the long list of TOSUCK. or rather, hashtag #sucking4samba. Thirdly, even though this does not really work, you are then asked to authenticate with keyring, as it doesn't gracefully start with your session and whatnot. In other words, bollocks. Last but not the least, the whole purpose of testing Linux distros is for me not to have to enter Windows user credentials on every single Linux box, because the whole purpose of testing is testing, before moving to production. Ergo, you're actually undermining my security with these prompts.
In more technical detail, if you try to access a Windows share, you will get either the following prompt, or from command line, if you use smbclient, which is not installed by default, you will see a bunch of security nerdovomit.
smbclient -L 192.168.2.105
WARNING: The "syslog" option is deprecated
Enter roger's password:
NTLMSSP packet check failed due to short signature (0 bytes)!
NTLMSSP NTLM2 packet check failed due to invalid signature!
session setup failed: NT_STATUS_ACCESS_DENIED
This is an official bug, and there are some recommendations on the Mint forums on how to work around this. Trying various smb.conf changes, like obey pam restrictions = no or guest ok=yes will not work. Do we need more regressions? You're welcome! I will try to figure out how to fix this, but methinks this will need to wait for a proper code change by the powers that be. NOTE: A recent set of updates on Ubuntu seems to partially fix this crap, but you're still not able to access your shares as an anonymous user. You might be spared extra prompts, though. Maybe
Samba works ...
If you ignore all this pointless, pointless nonsense, you can still connect to Samba shares, and the speed is decent. I was also able to connect to my HP printer, again with yet another useless authentication. You do need to install a 45K Python library, because it's too big to include in the default 1.2GB DVD image, right.
I had HD video, HTML5 - didn't find any videos that needed Flash - and MP3. This is cool, but worrying. Why would one family member of the Ubuntu tree allow playback, and another would not? Consistency is even more important than success or failure.
I only had my Windows Phone - Nokia Lumia 520 - and iPhone around for this set of reviewology, as I have loaned my Ubuntu Phone to an older couple for a week of hands-on testing. More about that later. Anyhow, both smartphones mounted without any errors or fussing, and were accessible through Thunar. However, Parole didn't - couldn't - see any tracks for either one of these devices. But as you can recall, Ubuntu 16.04 didn't do well there, either.
UEFI, GPT, 16 partitions, Secure Boot, easy peasy. I did not have any problems setting up Xubuntu Xenial onto the laptop's hard disk. It took about fifteen minutes of reserved slides before the action was complete. I really can't comment on anything tricky or special.
Anyhow, the installed Xubuntu didn't remember anything from the live session, so I had to go through the usual removal of icons from the desktop, Wireless config and the much needed Realtek modprobe change, and just one network freeze. Then, there was no update prompt from the system, but it did complain about incomplete language support. WTF? Fix it without telling me please. This is so amateurish. And then, to add insult to injury, there was no mention of the failed Flash configuration, which does affect Ubuntu. Speaking of inconsistency, this is totally pissing me off.
One thing is consistent - Software, the new thing replacing USC - does not work well, and it can't find half the packages through its GUI, while they are all available if you use the command line interface. Fail. Sing with me. Faaaail. Anyhow, not inspiring, and then no updates either until much later in the session, when I clicked Presentation mode under the battery indicator in the system area, and I have no idea how and why the two are in any way related. Much like not being able to tell if a random hick couple is related.
Well, fairly meager. Less useful than it used to be, though. I don't know why, but you don't get some of the goodies that came about in 15.10. However, you do get Firefox, Thunderbird, Transmission, Parole, and LibreOffice, which should work for most people. But you will need to add Steam, Skype, VLC, GIMP, if you care about those. I also installed the Faenza icons. Because.
I tested this after the installation, and almost had good results. Pairing with iPhone worked, but I was not able to send or receive any files. Moreover, iPhone did not see the G50 machine, but it did accept pairing prompts and such. This is an improvement from what we've seen before, and it will be interesting to check how the Ubuntu Phone behaves. Now, another device which might be worth testing is the M10 tablet, but I'd like to see the phone in action first. Just because it will give me a better reference and comparison to my previous escapades. Speaking of failures, the Bluetooth wizard looks nasty.
Suspend & resume
Remember what happened with Ubuntu 16.04 oh-glorious LTS? Yes, we occasionally lost network after waking up, and this happens even with the modprobe tweak in place, but to make it more intriguing like a forbidden and mysterious romance with a midget on a cruise ship, it only happens every three or five suspends, not always. Ha ha! The joke is on you! But do you think the same affects Xubuntu?
Nein! Nicht! Nada! Niente!
Xubuntu lost the mouse pointer, though. The network was fine, but I had no cursor for my external device, and no, replugging the mouse like a drunk badger humping a tire does not help, and the touchpad was also out of action. So you can imagine how much suck there is in this distro, combined with the amazing whirlpool of inconsistency and anger. Remember kids, this is supposed to be a long-term support release, with stability and hope to keep us warm through the spring and into the bright future! Only not so.
Performance, resource usage
The one thing you can't fault the Xenial Xerus with the Xfce desktop is its speed. The responsiveness is good, the CPU often idles around 0% or only 1%, and the memory usage stands at a fairly humble 400 MB, which is identical to Werewolf. This is something that has not, and I hope will not, change any time soon.
Now, this is the more interesting bit. We've seen more - surprise surprise - deterioration in battery life recently, across the entire Ubuntu range. Even Xubuntu is now struggling to produce decent times, and the latest Ubuntu barely manages two hours.
Well, here, Xenial first told me it had 12 hours left, which seems a bit dodgy. It did not autodim the display, even after I reduced the timeout threshold. Then, after a few seconds, it settled down on a meager 2 hours 50 minutes. So let's call it three hours, which is in line with its ancestors, especially on 100% brightness. This is less than what MX-15 does, which seems to lead the bunch on this laptop.
Seems okay, methinks. Well, most of the stuff was detected and initialized, even though there are bugs aplenty. I'm still not sure why the system update prompt popped up the moment I selected the Presentation mode thingie. I mean, really? And I'm also rather annoyed by the fact the brightness slider is not fully aligned into the right end of the slider range at the maximum level. Maybe because it would put it too close to the screen edge, but either way, this needs to be fixed. It's just amateurish.
Other bugs and issues
Stability was okay, apart from everything else that did not work, but there were no crashes per se, nor kernel oopses or panics. I did see a bunch of Realtek vomit in the system log, but that's like saying there's rain in England.
Anyhow, if you logout, the wallpaper will be gone, and there's this double flash, as if the login prompt comes a-knockin' twice, like the postman. Or is it the milkman? I was also not able to bookmark network locations in Thunar, because it wouldn't allow drag & drop, something that used to work. Like that song by Gotye, something that I used to do. Indeed. Now, samba wise, the distro is missing fairly useful components like samba-common and smbclient. Tiny packages really. No camera, either.
A highly useless component of this distro - for which there is space after all - is Gigolo, which has a silly, unprofessional name, and doesn't really help anyone. You actually need to know all the info before you can use the program, so what's the point. Like the host addresses or names and the exact share names. but why? I can just use Thunar and not bother.
And the result that hides all the battle scars and pain:
Before you read this conclusion, please do me a favor. Please read my review of Vivid, then go back up, find the links to the Werewolf review and the best distro of 2015 summary, and then read those, too. Then, come back to this piece here. Now, please try to explain, in human lingo, how it is possible than only one year apart, we get such a huge, drastic difference in the distro behavior.
Xubuntu 16.04 Xenial Xerus is meant to be the rock-solid LTS, beautiful and elegant and majestic. It is none of that. There are so many bugs and problems it really turns me off the whole Linux thing. I feel like an idiot for doing these reviews, for wasting hundreds and thousands of hours of my life trying to promote a cause and technology that ultimately just ends up failing randomly, because people can't be bothered to invest time in proper QA rather than pointless, arbitrary release dates and silly changes that serve no purpose.
Not good. Not good at all. Realtek issues, mouse going away after waking from sleep, login niggles, package management woes, sucky Bluetooth stack, Thunar hiccups, Samba crap. This is just a short list of everything that's wrong with Xenial, and then, to make it even worse, the Unity and the Xfce versions can't really agree on the suck list. They all have their own unique problems, and there's no consistency. I'm just pissed off. April 2016 was meant to be a happy, cheerful month. Now, I'm facing total destruction and distros that barely work. And yes, please, skip to the very end, and tell me how it's all my fault. Anyhow, Xubuntu Xerus gets only 3/10. Do not upgrade for now. See ya.